Guidelines for the optimal use of Digital Object Identifiers for germplasm samples

These guidelines could be freely accessed and download from the site of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This latter is a FAO initiative for sharing knowledge and resources about  the conservation and sustainable use of all plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of their use, in harmony with the Convention on Biological Diversity, for sustainable agriculture and food security.

The sustainable use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture is one of the three main objectives of the Treaty, which devotes Article 6 to it

The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (the Treaty) brings a number of legal issues that require better identification of germplasm samples . For example, holders of germplasm in the Multilateral System (MLS) are encouraged to declare what material they have available. Providers are required to report what they have provided and to make available passport data and other associated non-confidential information. Recipients are required to make available the same type of information arising from their use of the material.

In cases of dispute, the FAO may be required to investigate the transfers and use specific samples. Inclusion of material in the Treaty’s MLS is based on samples, not on cultivars or on any other assemblage of entities.

Access to genetic materials through the Multilateral System

The Treaty's truly innovative solution to access and benefit-sharing is its declaration that 64 of our most important crops - crops that together account for 80 percent of all human consumption - will comprise a pool of genetic resources that are accessible to everyone. On ratifying the Treaty, countries agree to make their genetic diversity and related information about the crops stored in their gene banks available to all through the MLS.

This gives scientific institutions and private sector plant breeders the opportunity to work with, and potentially to improve, the materials stored in gene banks or even crops growing in fields. By facilitating research, innovation and exchange of information without restrictions, this cuts down on the costly and time consuming need for breeders to negotiate contracts with individual gene banks.

Those who access genetic materials through the Multilateral System agree that they will freely share any new developments with others for further research.

Global Information System (GLIS) on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (PGRFA)

According to Resolution 3/2015 (adopted by the Governing Body at its Sixth Session in 2015)GLIS “integrates and augments existing systems to create the global entry point to information and knowledge for strengthening the capacity for PGRFA conservation, management and utilization". This vision is translated into seven objectives and a programme of work with concrete activities for the period 2016-2022.

The Programme of Work on GLIS takes into account the development of linkages with FAO systems and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Clearing House Mechanism, among other systems. The Programme of Work will also contribute to the development of national and regional inventories and information systems and networks.

The Governing Body established a Scientific Advisory Committee on Article 17 to advise the Secretary on general recommendations on the development of the System and its components, the discovery of new areas of work with potential impact on the system, and the selection of pilot activities for the System and, upon request of the Secretary, other initiatives and actions to sustain the operations of the System and the further update of the Programme of Work. The first meeting of the Scientific Advisory Committee  took place in Rome in November 2016. The Committee considered the issue of Digital Object Identifiers and the development of partnerships. 

Guidelines for the optimal use of Digital Object Identifiers as permanent unique identifiers for germplasm samples

These guidelines (v.1) are based on a broad consultative process and describe the main features and benefits of Digital Object Identifiers (DOIs) associated to germplasm samples and a set of basic rules for users to determine when to assign them.

Genebanks have tried for decades to encourage breeders and other users to identify samples by accession identifier rather than variety name. However, many authors continue to use the names varieties in their publications without identifying the specific strain or source of the sample they used, and breeders may even use just the name of a species in their pedigree information. The accession identifier as a unique identifier for accessions is effective within the context of the genebank concerned, but has not gained acceptance as a germplasm identifier outside the scope of the genebanks...

As a result of the analysis “Global survey on descriptors required to register material in the Global Information System” (Report of the survey, FAO, 2015) DOIs were selected as the best technical option to identify the minimum set of descriptors required. The Report of the survey showed that there was a strong consensus on a strategic key set of descriptors to be considered mandatory and few more to be proposed as highly recommended. 

The guidelines provide background on the development of DOIs and references to previous discussions. It should be emphasized that the DOI is associated to the physical sample, not to the description of the sample. DOIs may also be assigned to publications or datasets created from the sample, and these should be related to the sample’s DOI. However, such DOIs are not the subject of the present guidelines and should not be confused with the sample’s DOI...


“Data required for the assignation of Digital Object Identifiers in the Global Information System"- v.1” (PFD)

International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture : Global Information System

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